L.A. Mayor on Obama's Economic Meeting

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," November 7, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, well, president-elect Barack Obama wrapping up a meeting with his top economic advisers, as he prepares to take control of the White House, folks like billionaire Warren Buffett, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt, former Fed Chief Paul Volcker, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, all at the meeting, along with my next guest, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

He joins me now from the Chicago Hilton.

Mayor, always good to have you. Thank you.

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: Oh, it's great to be on your program. It's cold out here.

Video: Watch Neil's interview with the Mayor of Los Angeles

CAVUTO: I bet. I won't keep you too long, sir.

Did he tip his hand as to who his treasury secretary would be?

VILLARAIGOSA: Absolutely not. But I can tell you what was impressive was the — the kind of questioning — you could tell he's done his homework.

The president-elect really wanted to get a broad cross-section of opinion, both from economic experts and also people on the ground, people like the governor of Michigan, Governor Granholm, myself. It was a great opportunity to kind of get a broad view of what's happening in the economy and what we'd need to do to fix it.

CAVUTO: Did he indicate to you, Mayor, or any of the others in the room that he was open to everything Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats, Senate Democrats are doing right now, that is, front-loading a lot of stimulus long before he assumes office?

VILLARAIGOSA: We talked a lot about what's wrong with the economy. I mean, one of the reasons why he — as your folks mentioned a few minutes ago — why he had such a broad cross-section of experts is he really wants to get a handle on just what's wrong so we can figure out what we need to do to make it right and put America back on track.

Obviously, he's looking at short-term solutions, but also long-term investments, as well.

CAVUTO: You know, you're known to be a pretty fiscally prudent mayor. And the concern is that some in your party, especially in Washington, are kind of going nuts right now, throwing stimulus and rescues.

And, by the way, I blame both parties, by the way.

But it began maybe with this financial rescue. And now it's — it's rescuing everyone. Do you worry that there could be hell to pay for your party, now in — in an even heftier majority in Congress, and hefty bills to pay, as well?

VILLARAIGOSA: You know, I'm not thinking about my party right now, and I don't think president-elect Obama is thinking about the party. Nobody spoke about Democrats or Republicans today.

I can tell you what we talked about was America, what we do to get our economy moving again. We did talk about, obviously, the interconnectedness between our economy and world economies, as well, and the fact that we're really going to have to understand just what's going on so we can figure out what we need to do. And I think he...

CAVUTO: Yes, but did any of you — I know what you're saying, it's above party, but, ultimately, we the taxpayers are — are — are footing the bill for all this stimulus, in the hope, I guess, that it all works out.

Maybe it will. But it's going to be a heck of a bill, right, Mayor?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, look, there's no question that whatever's proposed has to meet a commonsense test. It — it — it should be measured. We've got to know, if we do X, is it going to get Y result? And if it's not, if it can't meet that standard, then we shouldn't be proposing it.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you, on — on — on the tax hike for the upper income, Larry Summers himself has said on Fox that, while he is for hiking taxes on the upper income, he would go slow in a slow economic environment. And the president-elect, again, echoed that this is a pretty slow economic environment.

Was he hinting or did he tell you or do you think that this is probably not the time to raise taxes on anyone?

VILLARAIGOSA: I can't speak with any specificity about what the president-elect or any other individual said.

I can say that I believe that, while we need to cut taxes for middle-income families — and under president-elect Obama's proposal, he would cut taxes for 95 percent of all Americans — we've also got to knowledge that we've got the highest deficits in our history, and we're going to have to make decisions accordingly.

CAVUTO: Well, I don't understand that answer.

Is that to say, then, Mayor, that, regardless of the economy, still high taxes on — on the upper income regardless, this is something that has not changed in — in the Obama economic plan?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, first of all, I don't speak for president-elect Obama. I'm just one member of the economic advisory team.

And what I'm saying is that I support president-elect Obama's tax cut proposal that would reduce taxes for 95 percent of Americans. But I also know that the — when that actually takes place is going to be — will be a decision made by president-elect Obama.

CAVUTO: All right, because the reason why I ask, sir, in his press conference later on, he seemed to dance on this subject and on the middle- class tax cut issue. I don't want to put words in his mouth, but he says he's — I think, I'm paraphrasing — he's taking in all the data, looking at the economic environment.

Did you get any hint from him, as we did from Bill Clinton when he was elected, back then president-elect Clinton had a middle-class tax cut on the table that he took off the table? Any — any sense that that's a possibility with Barack Obama's middle-class tax cut?

VILLARAIGOSA: I think I got — I heard the same — what I heard in our discussions was that, whatever he does, he's going to do with great deliberation.

He wants to have all the facts on the table. He wants to hear from Democrats and Republicans...

CAVUTO: Right.

VILLARAIGOSA: ... from people who can explain the macroeconomic issues, but also people on the ground who are feeling the impact of this crisis in our...

CAVUTO: So in other words, you're so good, you're not going to answer me, are you? You're that — you're that good?

VILLARAIGOSA: I'm not going to kiss and tell.


VILLARAIGOSA: You know, we had a...

CAVUTO: All right.

VILLARAIGOSA: We had a very productive meeting and a very productive exchange.

And I can tell you, I have a lot of confidence that the president- elect, Obama, is on the right track.

CAVUTO: All right.

Mayor, I will get you out of that cold. Thanks for — for chatting with me.

Very, very...



CAVUTO: ... clean answers, Mayor. Thank you. All right.


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